Saturday, April 7, 2012

You'll be in luck

Blanched meyer lemons
I think I'll always be a city girl. But sometimes, I do dream of living somewhere with room enough for a backyard full of swishing collards and an old lemon tree heavy with more fruit than I'd know what to do with. Maybe I'd even have a few chickens.
Right now, though, I'm happy enough to pretend. And last weekend, that wasn't too difficult to pull off. Just down the street, the last of the season's Meyer lemons were going for sixty-five cents a pound, so, naturally, I carted as many home as I could manage. And then I had more lemons than I knew what to do with.
I considered making my favourite lemon curd--my standby when Meyer lemons are in season--but I was afraid that with so many lemons that much curd would spoil before Octavian and I could possibly eat it all, as much as we love the stuff. So I decided to take things in an entirely different direction and preserve the lemons.
Lemons in salt
Preserved lemons are lemons that have been packed in a jar with salt and their own juices and left out to soften for a few days or weeks (depending on the specifics of the process). After that, with all that salt and acid, the lemons will keep in their jar refrigerated for about a year. So when you're longing for sunny, mouth-puckering citrus in high summer, you'll be in luck.
I was introduced to preserved lemons for the first time at Prune in New York City. They came diced--bright, tart little gems--studding a creamy, ricotta-slathered tartine. It was one of those simple but incredible lunches--nothing fancy, just beautiful ingredients thoughtfully put to use. I've been thinking about preserved lemons and summer-vegetable tartines ever since.
Jar and slice
Marinated sardines
You should think of these lemons as a savoury seasoning that will lend salty, lemony-bright notes to your dishes. So far in my kitchen, they've made their way into a lunch of marinated sardines and buttered bread. And I'm thinking that they'll do wonders in parchment-roasted asparagus or stirred into quinoa or rubbed into a chicken awaiting the oven...and maybe even in a cocktail or two. An abundance of lemons, all through the summer! For now, at least, I'm good without a lemon tree.

Moroccan-Style Preserved Lemons
Adapted from Paula Wolfert via Epicurious
Note: the number of lemons you need will really depend on their size. The Meyers I had were rather smallish, so I needed 22 in all to fill up my jar and cover the lemons with juice.

6-8 organic Meyer lemons + 5-15 additional Meyer lemons for their juice
150 g / 2/3 cup fine sea salt or kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Blanch the lemons in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain. This step hastens the softening of the lemons. When cool enough to handle, cut each lemon into 8 wedges, discarding seeds. Toss the lemons with salt in a bowl, then pack the lemons, along with their salt, tightly into a clean 1-quart jar.
Squeeze enough juice from the additional lemons to cover the salted lemons. The lemons may float a little, but this is okay--you should just turn the jar upside down and let it rest that way occasionally while the lemons are curing. Seal the jar and let the lemons stand at room temperature, shaking gently or turning once a day, for 5 days.
Add the oil to the jar and refrigerate. The lemons will keep chilled for up to a year. To use, remove flesh and discard. No need to rinse the lemons.


  1. Oh Katie Im so the same! City girl through and through with the biggest (and probably least practical) visions of myself eating porridge in the country with a fire and a Newfoundland at my feet.

    You know Ive never tried a Meyer lemon (I dont think?!) Clearly I need to. Anything that helps me eat more of my beloved - but sometimes not THAT exctiing - sardines is a good thing right!?

  2. I think we all have some degree of a country vs. city complex in us... I can never make up my mind on which is better. Who knows, maybe we just always want what we can't have. ;)

    Loved this post! I love your blog because it's always showing me new things -- I've heard of preserved lemons before but I've never given them a second thought. But after reading this post I feel as though I NEED to understand what they taste like with fresh ricotta on crisp toast or roasted in parchment with asparagus.

  3. I don't know why preserved lemons scare me so much, but your post makes them sound so doable! So thank you, from one city (and chicken) loving gal to another. ;)

  4. I already planned on making preserved lemons, and then you post this. Now I have them in a jar, standing on the counter top. I used a different recipe than yours, and I am already looking forward to using them in a tajine.
    Oh, and I also have dreams of being a gardener, to self-sustain myself. Oh well, lovely romatic ideas.

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  6. Em, girl, you live in California now. Get your hands on some Meyer lemons while/if they're still around! Meyers are sweeter than ordinary lemons, and they have a distinctive sort of herbal note to them. It reminds me a little of thyme.

    Thanks, Amy. I'm glad to make that happen! This didn't get properly expressed in the post, but the Prune tartine wasn't just preserved lemon and ricotta. It also had some sliced avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, and poppy seeds on it. But the lemon was important!

    Emily, you're welcome! These lemons are definitely very doable. All you really need is some sort of citrus-squeezing device, handheld or otherwise. The rest of the work is waiting, for the most part.

    Lena, which recipe are you using? We should compare!

  7. I don't know why I waited so long to get my own lemon squeezer. It makes it so easy to get all the juice, I find myself squeezing lemons and limes for the heck of it and then not knowing what I had intended to do with the juice.
    I wish I had lemons and avocados in my yard.
    I love preserved lemons and they can be so expensive to buy in a specialty shop. Such a great recipe to have handy!

  8. A fruit tree, all I want is fruit tree. If I could have a fruit tree in the city I'd be a happy city girl. Perhaps a cherry tree or maybe a Meyer lemon tree, or what about a pear tree? Uh oh, I'm getting greedy. A plot of land in the country isn't sounding so bad...something to look forward to I guess. For now i'm just going to focus on keeping my window herbs alive.

    I just got back from Southern Italy, and one of the best meals we ate was at a Masseria where fried greens were accompanied by preserved lemons (actually we ate there twice, one time lemons and then next time oranges). It was so simple and so delicious.

    Wonderful post!

  9. I've wanted to preserve lemons for ages, and these look gorgeous! i like that they are slightly softened first too.